RSS Feed

Category Archives: Bread

Blueberry, Almond and Orange Cake



A couple of posts back I revisited my Blueberry Hazelnut Cake. So I really had to make another blueberry cake straight after posting that recipe as blueberries are everywhere and are so inexpensive! I picked up 3 punnets from a fruit stall in the city for $5 – such good value!

This is a riff from the original recipe, this time using ground almonds and orange. Orange slices make a great decoration for the top of the cake too. Like the original cake, I made a quick blueberry jam to spoon over the top. Better then frosting, and it really complements the blueberries inside the cake.

This is an incredibly moist cake, because of the blueberries and the Greek yoghurt. The cooking time is 45 minutes, but you may need to give it a little longer if it’s still not quite baked when you check using the skewer test.

Because it’s so moist I thought about adjusting the liquid quantities, but decided not to, as I think this cake works really well as a rich dessert, and is also a great cake for keeping. And don’t worry if it doesn’t rise that much, there is a lot of fruit in it which makes it harder to rise.

Any orange is fine for the juice and decoration – I used a blood orange as they are in season in Sydney and are so pretty!

Ingredients

125g softened butter

115g  caster sugar

1 teaspoon almond essence

2 free-range eggs

1 heaped tablespoon Greek yoghurt

100g ground almonds

100g plain flour

I teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

60ml milk

1 tablespoon orange juice

200g fresh blueberries

For the quick blueberry jam

100g blueberries

50g caster sugar

Juice of half an orange

Orange slices for decoration, if desired

Method

You can make this cake in a stand mixer, but I prefer to use a food processor. Either will work well.

I made this cake in a square cake pan with a removable base, but of course a round spring form pan is what most people will have, so that will work fine.

Preheat oven to 170 degrees C or 160 degrees C fan-forced. Grease a 20cm square pan with a removable baseif you have it, or a 20cm spring form round pan, and line the base with baking paper.

Cream butter, caster sugar and almond essence extract in a food processor.  Add the free-range eggs and process until eggs are well incorporated. Pulse in the Greek yoghurt.  Sift the ground almonds, flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. Stir in the sifted ingredients into the mixture with a spoon, then stir in the milk and orange juice.

Fold in the fresh blueberries. Spoon into whichever cake pan you are using.

Bake for about 45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Check the cake after 35 or 40 minutes, and if it’s browning too quickly, place a piece of baking paper or aluminium foil over the top to prevent burning.

Meanwhile, cook the blueberries for the quick jam and the caster sugar with the orange juice in a small saucepan for a few minutes until the sugar is dissolved, the blueberries are slightly softened and the liquid slightly reduced. You can gently press on the blueberries with the back of spoon to help them release their juices.

Cool the cake completely in the pan before removing the sides/ring of the pan. As the cake is quite moist and therefore a bit delicate, carefully remove it from its base using an offset spatula or indeed an ordinary metal spatula.

Pile the blueberry “jam” onto the top of the cake. Serve with more fresh berries and orange slices if desired. I think this particular blueberry cake is fine on its own, as it’s so moist, but you could always dress it up with cream or ice cream if serving as a dessert.

Sourdough Sandwich Bread



Lately I’ve been experimenting with different types of sourdough, from wholemeal loaves to enriched white soft sourdough.

My current favourite is a wholemeal loaf that is great for sandwiches. It can be shaped as a batard in a proving basket and then baked in a pot, or equally baked in a loaf tin to make it easier to slice for the aforementioned sandwiches!

The recipe is based on my go-to sourdough method, with some tweaks for wholemeal. I have given instructions for both the batard in a cast iron pot and the loaf tin versions.

Ingredients

150g strong wholemeal flour

300g strong white flour

150g wholemeal sourdough starter

325g tepid water

2 teaspoons honey

10g salt

Method

Weighing, mixing, autolyse
Weigh both flours into a large bowl. Weigh the sourdough starter and add, followed by the water. Add the honey. Mix everything together very roughly, in order to incorporate the ingredients.

Cover the bowl and leave for 30 minutes to autolyse.  I use a clear plastic shower cap as a cover, as it fits nicely over most sized bowls. A plastic bag is fine too. The autolyse is an important step to activate fermentation. 

After the autolyse add the salt to the mixture. Now you can choose to knead the mixture using a dough hook in an electric stand mixer, knead by hand or use the stretch and fold method, essentially a no knead way of developing gluten in the dough. I strongly advise using a dough hook in a stand mixer – I have a KitchenAid which I swear by. You can really develop the gluten in the dough, which makes the dough much easier to pre-shape and then shape. *

Kneading and proving 
Using a mixer, mix the dough for 6 minutes on the lowest speed, then 4 minutes on the next speed up. The dough should be lovely and stretchy, and pass the windowpane test. If you pull and stretch a small section, it should be translucent. Cover the bowl again and leave the dough in a warm place to prove for about 4 hours. I usually do a couple stretch and folds too – one straight after mixing, and one half way through the prove. 

After the first prove of 4 hours the dough should have increased in size by about 50%.

Pre-shaping
Carefully remove the dough from the bowl with the help of a dough scraper onto an unfloured work surface. Definitely no flour needed! I use an oversized wooden board, but a bench top will work too. The dough will be stretchy, and shouldn’t be too delicate, but don’t be too rough! Slide the scraper underneath the dough, lifting it from underneath. You will feel the scraper catch the dough as it lifts it up. I try not to remove the scraper, just move it round all of the dough in a circle. Sometimes the scraper sticks, and you need to pull it out, remove the sticky dough, and then go under again, but the more you move around the dough, the tighter the dough becomes and the less likely to stick. Do this circular movement with the scraper a few times until the dough forms a round, wobbly ball that roughly holds its shape. Leave for 20-30 minutes to let the gluten relax.

Shaping
This is where you can shape for a batard in a proving basket to be baked in a pot or for a loaf tin. It’s important that you are super careful with the shaping as you don’t want to damage the dough you have worked so hard to develop.

Fo the batard shape, put the pre-shaped dough onto the work surface, lightly floured. Imagine the dough is sort of square shape. Take the two sides of the square shape that are opposite each other and gently stretch away from each other. Fold these stretched bits over each other in the centre of the dough. Turn the dough round 90 degrees and do the same with the other two sides of the square. Now that you have folded the 4 sides of the square, fold 2 of the opposing corners in the same way, and then fold the other opposing corners. Now roll up the dough like a Swiss roll, it doesn’t matter which side you roll up. Press the seam to seal.

If using a proving basket, carefully move the dough into a batard shaped proving basket, with the smooth side of the dough on the bottom and the seam side on top.

If using a loaf tin, butter a large loaf tin generously. Move the dough and place seam side down, into the tin. 

Second proving
While you can prove your dough for 2-3 hours at room temperature, I advocate the retarded or fridge prove, and this method serves me well. Leave the dough at room temperature for an hour then place in the fridge for 8-12 hours. Doing this at night works well as it allows you to bake your bread first thing the next morning.

Baking
For the pot method, pre-heat your oven to really hot – 250 degrees C. Put the pot in when you begin to pre-heat, and leave for 20-30 minutes.

Turn your dough out of the proving basket onto a thin flat baking tray or peel, well dusted with semolina. The pretty side of the dough is now on top. Open the oven and carefully take the lid of the pre-heated pot off. You can then slide the shaped dough into the hot pot.

At this point you can score the dough using a lame or razor blade. For a batard, score with 1 or 2 long cuts down the length of the dough. Put the lid back on the pot. Turn the oven to 220 degrees C or 200 degrees C fan-forced. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for a further 20-30 minutes with the lid off. I have experimented endlessly with this latter baking time, and have come to the conclusion that the longer baking time gives a richer, browner loaf, which is what I prefer.

If baking in a loaf tin, pre-heat your oven to 250 degrees C 30 minutes prior to baking. If you have one, use a baking or pizza stone. Place this in the oven at the time of pre-heating. Once the 30 minutes is up, to add steam to the oven, put a cast iron pan or a baking dish with water in it in the bottom of the oven. Put the loaf tin in the oven onto the heated stone.

Turn the oven to 220 degrees C or 200 degrees C fan-forced and bake for 45-50 minutes. The loaf should be dark brown on top.

For either the batard or the loaf, once cooked, remove from the oven, take out of the pot/tin and leave to cool for an hour.

This bread, as the title of the post suggests, makes great sandwiches! It’s easy to slice into manageable sandwich slices. Great with lots of  kinds of fillings but I’m partial to egg and mayonnaise. I can strongly recommend that combination!

Of course like any good sourdough, lovely with plenty of butter and home made jam!

*If you don’t have an electric mixer, I recommend the stretch and fold method – see previous post on Sourdough, Ultimate Bread here for how to do this. As for traditional kneading, there is plenty of information on the internet to guide you.

Barbecue Steak with a Wicked Treacle Glaze



Steak? With a treacle glaze? No, I’m not joking, this is an excellent barbecue recipe! And treacle works a treat with steak.

The recipe comes from James Martin’s French Adventure, a fabulous television series and great accompanying book. I’m a huge fan of James Martin, as his recipes are no nonsense and easy to follow.

I made this delicious steak dish a couple of years ago, and, with the warmer spring weather happening here in Sydney, it’s time to get out the barbecue utensils and get barbecuing! However, if the weather is inclement this recipe works equally well in a cast iron grill pan on the stove top.

I cooked the recipe with sirloin, a cut I think barbecues well. Any large thick steak would do, thick enough to cut into decent slices once cooked.

Quantities for 4 hungry people for lunch, or a summer barbecue dinner.

Ingredients

1 baguette

100ml olive oil

1 garlic bulb, cut in half

4 large steaks (sirloin, rib eye, scotch fillet, all work well)

2 tbsp black treacle

A few sprigs of thyme

A splash of Worcestershire sauce

A couple of drops of Tabasco

4 spring onions

Mixed salad greens to serve

Method

Preheat a barbecue or cast iron grill pan on the stove top, till very hot.

Slice the baguette lengthways, then cut in half crossways. Drizzle with a little of the oil and char both sides on the barbecue or grill pan.  Remove and rub the cut surface of the garlic over the cut sides of the baguette. Cover loosely with foil to keep the baguette pieces warm while you cook the steaks.

Pour the remaining oil into a bowl, add the black treacle, thyme and Worcestershire and Tabasco sauces, and mix together.

Cook the steaks on the barbecue or grill pan for about 4 minutes, then baste with the treacle mix and cook for 2 more minutes. Carefully turn the steaks, spoon over some more treacle, leaving a little for drizzling once the the dish is served. Cook for a further 4 minutes. Remove the steaks from the heat and leave to rest.

Cut the spring onions into 2 or 4 pieces lengthways, depending on the size of the onions.  Place on the barbecue or grill pan and cook for 3–4 minutes, turning halfway through.

Place the baguette pieces on a serving platter. Slice the steaks thickly, and put on top of the baguette pieces. Scatter the salad greens and spring onions on the platter. Finish with a drizzle or two of the treacle sauce to serve.

 

Boozy Buns with Raisins and Sultanas

 


I’m a huge fan of buns, rolls or scrolls, any kind of bread with a sweet filling. I usually make cinnamon scrolls, which are always delicious. This time I wanted to make some sweet buns using boozy fruit from the jar in my store cupboard.

I keep a jar permanently in the cupboard with raisins and sultanas soaking in alcohol. I top up the jar with rum or brandy or even whisky, whatever I have on hand. Stick in a vanilla pod, give the mixture a stir and leave the fruit to macerate. The boozy fruit makes a delicious dessert served over ice cream or with cream or yoghurt, or as a filling for cakes or pastries.

These yeasted buns are full of luscious fruit and almond frangipane, rolled like a scroll, and finished with a golden syrup glaze while still warm. They are pretty easy to make, particularly if you use a mixer with a dough hook. You will need to use a bit of elbow grease if you knead by hand!

Start the buns the day before you want to bake them, and leave in the fridge overnight for the second prove. Then bake them first thing in the morning and eat them warm from the oven for breakfast if you can’t resist the smell of freshly baked sticky buns!

Ingredients 

For the Dough

500g strong flour

7g instant yeast

10g salt

50g caster sugar

250g milk

2 large free range eggs, beaten

50g butter

For the Frangipane

50g butter

50g sugar

60g ground almonds

1 large free range egg

1/2 teaspoon almond essence

Filling + Glaze

300g boozy raisins and sultanas (If you don’t have a jar of prepared fruit, simply put the fruit in a bowl and cover with 1/2 cup of rum, brandy or whisky. Leave to soak for 1/2-1 hour)

100g golden syrup

Icing

100g icing sugar with a little water to make a paste

Method

Put the strong flour into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook or into a large mixing bowl if kneading by hand. Add the instant yeast and salt, making sure the yeast and salt are on opposite sides of the bowl, and the caster sugar. Add the milk which you have warmed to tepid (microwaving is easy) and the beaten eggs. Mix by hand into a rough dough, even if you’re going to use the dough hook in the next stage.

Cover the bowl with a tea towel or my favourite, a plastic shower cap, and rest for 20 minutes. Then move the bowl to the mixer and knead with the dough hook until the mixture is smooth and starting to develop some elasticity, about 5 minutes. Add the butter in small pieces, then knead again for about 5 minutes, using the mixer until the butter is thoroughly incorporated, the dough is smooth and you can achieve the “windowpane” effect. That is, you can pull  some of the dough off the dough hook, between two fingers, stretching it so that it’s translucent.

If you are kneading by hand, you will knead to work the dough really well, in both stages, to get it to the desired silky, elastic stage.

Cover the bowl again and leave in a warm place to prove for about an hour, until the dough is doubled in size. You ideally need a temperature of about 25 degrees C. In winter in Sydney it can be hard to get that temperature, so I usually resort to leaving the bowl near the heating source, and even giving it an extra 30 minutes plus if the dough hasn’t doubled in size.

Make the frangipane while the dough is proving. Put all the ingredients into a food processor and mix. Or you can beat the ingredients together by hand. Either way you want to end up with a smooth paste.

Once the dough is risen, take the dough out of the bowl onto the bench top or ideally a large wooden board. Flour the bench top or board liberally with flour. Flour a rolling pin and roll the dough into a large rectangle, as large as you can go, with the dough ending up about 1/2 cm thick. My dough rectangle is usually about 30cm in width by 40-50cm in length.

Smear the frangipane over the entire rectangle of dough. It will look like you haven’t got quite enough, but keep on spreading and you will cover the rectangle.

Drain your boozy raisins and sultanas, and scatter them over the dough. Now carefully roll up the dough along the long side. Using a sharp knife, slice the dough. You should get about 12 slices, give or take.

Line a large baking tin or tray with baking paper. Carefully place each slice, cut side up, into the tin or tray, fitting them snugly together.

Place the tin or tray into a large plastic bag. You will need to make sure you have enough room in your fridge, as you are going to prove the buns in there overnight. Put the tin or tray into the fridge, and leave for 8-12 hours overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat your oven to 180 degrees C fan forced, or 200 degrees C non fan forced. Place a baking tray, or ideally a cast iron pan, in the bottom of the oven, with some water in it, to create steam for your baking.

Remove the plastic bag from the tin/tray and put the buns straight from the fridge into the preheated oven. Bake for 20 minutes or until the buns are risen and a deep golden brown.

Remove the buns from the oven. Warm the golden syrup to make it spreadable – 30 seconds in the microwave on low, or gently heat in a saucepan.

While the buns are still still warm, brush all over with the golden syrup. Be generous! You want the buns to be really sticky!

Pull the buns apart, and eat while warm – they are truly delicious and moreish. Or wait till they are cool, and drizzle over some icing. Make the icing by adding water, a teaspoon at a time, to the icing sugar, until you have a paste that you can drizzle over the buns – not too thick but not too runny.

An easy way to drizzle is to put the icing in a zip lock bag and snip the corner off. You can squeeze the icing out of your makeshift piping bag.

Or even easier – dip a fork in the icing and drizzle straight over the buns!

Whether you eat warm or at room temperature, ice or not, these buns are super yummy. They keep for a couple of days, and also freeze well.

But best eaten on the day!

Sourdough Donut Top Muffins

 

Everyone is baking in the isolationist era of 2020, and many people are mad for sourdough bread. I’m all in favour – I have lots of recipes for sourdough on this blog and I would encourage anyone to have a go!

If you make sourdough, you inevitably end up with left over starter. There are lots of things you can make with it, from enriching ordinary yeast breads, to making crumpets and making muffins.

Here is a recipe for muffins using leftover starter. I blogged it last Easter, but actually, while it has Easter flavours, it would be delicious at any time, so here it is again.

These super simple muffins are full of fruit and spices, plus the added bonus that they are dipped in cinnamon sugar to give a donut crunch on the top!

I’ve called them sourdough muffins, because of the left over starter in the mix. It certainly adds to the flavour, but you can just as easily make lovely muffins without the sourdough starter. You don’t need to add anything extra to the mixture, if you leave out the starter, you will just have slightly less mix.

If you make the mixture with the starter you’ll get 15 or so muffins. Without the starter you would probably get 12 muffins. That’s using a regular muffin pan. So obviously if you make 15 you’ll need a second pan or you would need to use the pan twice.

However, this mixture keeps really well in the fridge for a couple of days, so you can bake as many or as few muffins as you like and keep the remaining mixture in the fridge!

Ingredients
1 cup sultanas and raisins
1/3 cup of rum/sherry/port or any liqueur
2 cups plain flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking sofa
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup sourdough starter
1/4 cup milk
2 large free-range eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup golden syrup

For the topping
20g melted butter
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Method
Soak the sultanas and raisins in the rum/sherry/port/liqueur for half an hour or more, if you have the time.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease the holes of a regular 12 cup muffin pan.
Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. In a second bowl, beat together the starter, if using, and the milk, eggs, oil, honey and golden syrup. Blend the wet ingredients with the dry, taking about 20 seconds. Gently stir in the fruit just until blended.
Fill the holes of the prepared pan two-thirds full. Or fill a little higher if you like muffins that have a “muffin top”!
Bake the muffins for 15-20 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. I check after 15 minutes. Ovens are variable, so you need to keep checking for doneness.
When the muffins are clearly cooked, remove the muffin pan from the oven and allow the muffins to cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing them from the pan.
Put the melted butter in a small bowl, and mix the caster sugar and cinnamon on a plate. While the muffins are still warm, dip the top of each one in butter and then in the sugar/cinnamon mixture.
Serve warm or at room temperature. Great with your isolationist  morning tea or coffee!

Isolation Sourdough


Strange times, strange world. It’s 1 April  2020 and definitely not April Fools’ Day. Life is too serious for jokes. But one good thing is happening, people all over the world are enjoying cooking at home, and “from scratch”.

There is a renewed interest in baking your own bread. That’s great! Bread making is a wonderful skill, so satisfying and therapeutic. You can practise mindfulness when kneading a loaf!

But yeast is in short supply (unavailable for me currently), as would be bakers raid the stores to get supplies for making bread.

The good news is you can make brilliant bread without commercial yeast, if you embrace sourdough, the ancient and enduring method of turning flour and water into a risen loaf.

So I thought I would put my sourdough recipes into one post, or at least the links to the posts. I have been refining sourdough making over the last few years, and I am now confident, actually quite chuffed, with the bread I bake today.

I should mention that everything I’ve learnt about sourdough has been through the books of breadmaker James Morton: Brilliant Bread, Shetland:Cooking on the Edge of the World and his latest book Super Sourdough. The latter, in particular, is an excellent guide to sourdough bread making.

Another thing to mention is that to make sourdough bread you need a sourdough starter. But it’s not as daunting as it looks, and I give plenty of instructions in the posts.

Here are 3 links to my sourdough journey. All are good recipes and procedures to make sourdough. I think Sourdough, Ultimate Bread  is the best. It’s the most recent, and has some good tips and tricks, particularly in proving and shaping bread.

Here are the links. If you’re in home isolation and want to make bread, give sourdough a go. You won’t regret it!

1. Sourdough, Ultimate Bread: https://thequirkandthecool.com/2019/12/05/for-the-love-of-sourdough/

2. Shetlandic Sourdough: https://thequirkandthecool.com/2019/08/10/shetlandic-sourdough/

3. Simple Sourdough: https://thequirkandthecool.com/2015/08/01/simple-sourdough/

Sweet Grape Focaccia



Recently I held another bread making workshop for friends. I really enjoy passing on the knowledge I have gained about creating beautiful bread from scratch, all from my own hands on experience and trial and error baking.

We talked a lot about sourdough, as I am a self confessed sourdough nut! My friends who are scientists, were really impressed when I showed them the wonderful growth that happens when you feed a sourdough starter!

However, I was keen to show my friends how easy it is to make bread using commercial dried yeast. So we made two breads, a simple free form shaped loaf and a sweet grape focaccia, both made with the same dough.

Here is the recipe for the grape focaccia. It’s a really easy, quick bread. It’s not traditional, but a simple adaptation of a bread recipe that you can knock out in a short time, if you’re looking for a sweet bread fix!

Ingredients 

425g strong white flour

10g table salt

7g sachet fast-action dried yeast

325ml tepid water

2-3 tablespoons brown sugar

Enough black grapes to cover the focaccia

Optional – a few sprigs of lemon thyme

Olive oil

Method

Place the flour in a large bowl. Add in the salt at one edge of the bowl and the yeast on the other side. This is because the salt can stop the yeast from working.

Add the tepid water and mix together to form a dough, using your dough to mop up any flour sticking to the bowl. Now knead the dough for a minimum of 5 minutes up to 10 minutes. You can knead the dough in the bowl, stretching and folding the dough. An easy way to do this is to gently grab a section of the dough, stretch it and fold back over the remainder of the dough in the bowl.

Turn the bowl 90 degrees and repeat. Keep this up until the dough is noticeably smooth. A good way to see if the dough is well kneaded is to do the window pane test. Gently pull a little section of the dough with both hands and the dough should stretch without breaking and be translucent.

Cover the dough and rest for 45 minutes to one hour until the dough has doubled in size. My favourite way to cover the dough is with a plastic shower cap, but a tea towel will do as well.

Take the dough out of the bowl and move on to a floured surface. Now for the shaping of the focaccia. Flour your hands and shape the dough into a rough rectangle, pulling it into shape.

Lightly oil a baking tray. Place the shaped rectangular dough onto the oiled tray. Loosely cover, this time with a large tea towel, and leave to prove for an hour, or until it has doubled in size and springs back when pushed.

During this hour prove, preheat the oven to 200 degrees C fan forced, at least 20 minutes before baking.

Remove the tea towel from the proved dough. To make the recognisable focaccia dimples, gently press your fingers all over the dough.

Scatter the brown sugar over the dough. How much you scatter is up to you, but you need at least 2 tablespoons. Remember there is no sugar in the bread dough. Put the grapes over the dough, again using as many as you like. At this point, you can scatter a few sprigs of lemon thyme over the focaccia. The lemon thyme adds a lovely piquant flavour. Dribble a little olive over the focaccia dough.

Place the focaccia into the oven on a low or middle shelf for 35-40 minutes. The focaccia should be a deep brown and the grapes dark and oozing juice.

Serve warm on its own, or with cream or ice cream. I like to serve slices of the focaccia smeared with sour cream.

Sourdough Starter Crumpets

There’s always a dilemma when making sourdough, that is, what to do with left over starter. I often add sourdough starter to baking with man-made yeast, for added rise and that extra sourdough flavour.

Making sourdough crumpets is another favourite. There are recipes that suggest only using starter, with bicarbonate of soda added of course. Having tried these recipes, I’m not a fan of the resulting intensely “sour” flavour of the crumpets.

So I have experimented with a few versions and have come up with a recipe that is now my go-to crumpet recipe. In fact it’s easier than ordinary recipes involving man-made yeast!

The quantities are simple: equal amounts of strong flour, sourdough starter and water, plus a little salt and sugar and the bicarb. No proving or waiting involved. And the result is beautiful, flavoursome, dense crumpets complete with those crumpet holes!

Ingredients

200g strong flour 

200g sourdough starter 

200g water

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

2-3 tablespoons butter for cooking/greasing

Method

You will need a fairly large frying pan for the recipe plus crumpet rings. I used to use silicone egg rings until I invested in proper metal crumpet rings. The egg rings are fine, but I do like the stability of the metal rings.

Mix the flour, sourdough starter and water to a smooth paste. Add the salt and sugar and mix again. Add the bicarb. At this stage you will see some bubbles from the bicarb reaction. I get varying degrees of bubbles but I find that the crumpets still do their thing even when there are less bubbles.

Add a tablespoon of butter to the pan and melt over low heat. Once the butter melts, use a pastry brush to carefully butter 4 crumpet rings. I use this method as it saves on melting butter separately. Add another tablespoon of butter, turn up the heat to medium and leave the rings in the pan to heat up.

Now it’s time to cook the crumpets. Several important things to remember. Clean the crumpet rings in between cooking and butter again, otherwise the crumpets are in danger of sticking. Fill the crumpet rings half to three quarters full. Half for a traditional size crumpet and three quarters for a whopper size. I like my crumpets thick but I’ve learned from experience that filling the rings with too much mixture means the crumpets spill over the top and quite frankly end up so thick they don’t fit in the toaster!

Cook the number of crumpets that can fit in your pan. In my case, I can cook three at a time. I’ve always got the fourth ring ready to go with more mixture. Keep on cooking until you’ve used all the mixture. I usually get 6-9 crumpets from a mixture.

Fill each ring with the required amount of mixture and leave for a good 6-10 minutes to cook. The crumpets should rise and have almost cooked through. Remove the rings with tongs and flip over. The crumpets should be brown underneath. (If you can’t remove the rings don’t worry, turn the crumpets over in the rings and then remove the rings once cooked.)

Cook for a couple of minutes on the second side until brown. Remove from the pan. I find that the crumpets don’t all cook at the same rate so I remove them at different times.

Use the remaining tablespoon of butter as necessary to butter the rings for the next round of crumpets and also to add a little more butter to the pan as you cook more crumpets.

A word on holes. When you cook the first side, after a few minutes you will see the trademark holes forming on the top. The holes develop and pop as the mixture dries out.

I give the holes a helping hand, by popping the emerging holes with a skewer. I think this is quite acceptable as the ultimate aim in having holes is to allow more butter to be absorbed!

The crumpets, as is traditional, need to be toasted. Don’t be tempted to eat them untoasted just because they are freshly made!

I make these crumpets whenever I have left over starter after bread making and sometimes I top up my starter just to make a batch of crumpets.

They also freeze beautifully – I always have a few packs of crumpets ready to unfreeze and then toast.

I serve them with lots of butter and good quality honey or jam. In the photos I served them with my homemade strawberry conserve, recipe here.

If you’re a dedicated sourdough bread maker, this is the perfect recipe to use that precious starter you have worked so hard to develop and want to put to good use.

Sourdough, Ultimate Bread

I’m a sourdough evangelist. And I will preach to anyone who will listen – to which my friends will testify!

The power of natural yeast to change flour and water into a beautiful, intense flavoured loaf of bread is a wonderful thing. I began baking sourdough bread a few years ago, but this year I have embarked on a journey to develop my skills and come up with the perfect loaf. Of course, there’s no such thing, but every loaf has its value and provides a lesson in what works and what can be improved.

I make a lot of sourdough bread, and I’ve come a long way in my journey. So I thought it would helpful to write up my current sourdough process. I hope that readers of this blog will enjoy this latest account, and perhaps will be inspired to make their first – or next – sourdough loaf.

And here I should say that I have developed my sourdough skills through reading and following the procedures, advice and hands on experiences of the baking doctor James Morton. He is the high priest of sourdough, and his latest book Super Sourdough (Hardie Grant Publishing) is an instruction manual and bakers’ bible in one.

It’s also full of commonsense and incredibly helpful advice and excellent recipes. I really recommend it.

Here is the sourdough process that is producing well risen, beautiful tasting and relatively consistent loaves for me, based on the James Morton method.

An important aspect of making sourdough is the baking component. I use the cast iron pot method, of which much has been written, particularly on the internet. The principle seems to be that baking the bread inside a pot creates steam which helps the bread to rise.

A note on a sourdough starter. I’m including a method suggested by James Morton that has worked for me. My starter is incredibly active and makes my dough rise really well. There are many methods around for starters, and I don’t claim to be enough of an expert to say definitively which ones are best.

Sourdough starter
Put 100g wholemeal flour and 100g fruit juice into a glass jar and mix. Leave for about 5 days or until it develops lots of bubbles. Feed with equal amounts of flour and water, at least as much flour as is already in the jar. After the first feed, you will need to discard some starter, to maintain a reasonable size starter in the jar. The starter can be used to make bread once it consistently grows in size after being fed.

If you’re not making bread everyday, and therefore using up starter, you can store the starter in the fridge and feed once a week.

Ingredients
450g strong flour
150g sourdough starter
325g tepid water
10g salt

Method

Mix
Measure the flour into a large bowl. Add the sourdough starter and the water. Don’t add the salt just yet. Mix very roughly just enough to incorporate the ingredients.

Autolyse
Cover and leave for 30 minutes so the mixture can autolyse. I use a clear plastic shower cap as a cover, as it fits nicely over most sized bowls. A plastic bag is fine too.

Knead and Prove
Add the salt to the mixture. Now you can choose to knead the mixture using a dough hook in an electric stand mixer, knead by hand or use the stretch and fold method, essentially a no knead way of developing gluten in the dough. If you want to knead by hand, that’s fine, but I don’t, so I won’t describe here. There is plenty of information out there about ways of kneading!

If using a mixer, mix the dough for 6 minutes on the lowest speed, then 4 minutes on the next speed up. The dough should be lovely and stretchy, and pass the windowpane test if you pull and stretch a small section – it should be translucent. Cover the bowl again and leave the dough in a warm place to prove for about 4 hours. The advantages of this method are less work and you can leave the dough alone for the 4 hours.

The stretch and fold method is great if you don’t want to knead and if you haven’t got an electric mixer. Remove the cover from the dough. You need to wet your fingers for this method, to stop your fingers sticking to the dough. Gently grab one of the edges of the dough and fold over into the middle. Repeat, turning the bowl around so you have lifted up all of the dough and folded into the middle.The dough should start to feel stretchy. Do this stretching and folding of the dough about 4 or more times, covering the bowl again after each stretch and fold. The whole stretch and fold method should be done over 4 hours.

After the first prove of 4 hours the dough should have increased in size by at least 50%.

Pre-shape
Now comes the interesting part of the process for, getting the dough into a shape that can then be shaped for baking. I was very nervous of pre-shaping initially, now its my favourite part of bread making!

Carefully remove the dough from the bowl with help of a dough scraper onto an unfloured work surface. Definitely no flour needed! I use an oversized wooden board, but a bench top will work too. The dough will be stretchy, and quite delicate, so no rough treatment. Slide the scraper underneath the dough, lifting it from underneath. You will feel the scraper catch the dough as it lifts it up. I try not to remove the scraper, just move it round all of the dough in a circle. Sometimes the scraper sticks, and you need to pull it out, remove the sticky dough, and then go under again, but the more you move around the dough, the tighter the dough becomes and the less likely to stick. Do this circular movement with the scraper a few times until the dough forms a round, wobbly ball that roughly holds its shape. Leave for 20-30 minutes to let the gluten relax.

Shape
I shape my sourdough loaves to fit the 2 cast iron pots I bake in. One is round, perfect for a boule shape. The other is oval, which is fine for a batard shape.

It’s important that you are super careful with the shaping. The dough is delicate and you don’t want to damage the dough you have worked so hard to develop.

For a round boule: put the pre-shaped dough onto the work surface, lightly floured. Imagine the round of dough is a clock face. Take one edge of the dough at 12 o’clock and gently pull towards you, and fold into the centre of the dough. Move the dough around to 3 o’clock and pull and fold again. Move to 6 o’clock, then 9 o’clock, pulling and folding. Do this process a few times until the dough feels tight and a little bouncy. Turn the dough over. Scoop the dough into curved hands and rock the dough backwards and forwards, until the dough feels tight and smooth.

For a batard: put the pre-shaped dough onto the work surface, lightly floured. Imagine the dough is sort of square shape. Take the two sides of the square shape that are opposite each other and gently stretch away from each other. Fold these stretched bits over each other in the centre of the dough. Turn the dough round 90 degrees and do the same with the other two sides of the square. Now that you have folded the 4 sides of the square, fold 2 of the opposing corners in the same way, and then fold the other opposing corners. Take any side of the dough and roll up like a Swiss roll. Press the seam to seal.

For either shape, carefully move the dough into a proving basket, round or batard shaped, with the smooth side of the dough on the bottom and the seam side on top.

Second Prove
While you can prove your dough for 2-3 hours at room temperature, I advocate the retarded or fridge prove, and this method serves me well. Leave the dough at room temperature for an hour then place in the fridge for 8-12 hours. Doing this at night works well as it allows you to bake your bread first thing the next morning.

Score and Bake
For the pot method, pre-heat your oven to really hot – 250 degrees C. Put the pot in when you begin to pre- heat, and leave for 20-30 minutes. The pot will certainly be really hot after half an hour – and perhaps this is a waste of energy – but I sometimes want to be completely sure the pot is hot, so I go the extra 10 minutes.

Turn your dough out of the proving basket onto a thin flat baking tray or peel, well dusted with semolina. The pretty side of the dough is now on top. Open the oven and carefully take the lid of the pre-heated pot off. You can then slide the shaped dough into the hot pot.

At this point you can score the dough using a lame or razor blade or sharp knife. For a boule, scoring with a cross is good, however, I sometimes score with 2 parallel slashes, giving the bread more of an oval shape. For a batard, score with 1 or 2 long cuts down the length of the dough.

Pop the lid back on the pot and close the oven door. Turn the oven to 220 degrees C or 200 degrees C fan-forced. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for a further 20-30 minutes with the lid off. I have experimented endlessly with this latter cooking time, and have come to the conclusion that 20 minutes gives a lighter brown loaf, softer in the middle, while 30 minutes gives a richer, browner loaf not quite as soft.

Remove the bread to a wire rack or board and leave to cool for an hour before cutting.

That’s it. I have tried to explain what works for me. There are infinite variations on the how-to of sourdough bread making. This is just one method. I can only encourage you to try this method, or any other, to discover the joys and pleasures and the huge satisfaction of turning flour and water into a magnificent loaf of bread.

Ruby Sunrise Marmalade

My last two posts have incorporated marmalade because once I’ve made a batch I just have to use it in my cooking! My Marmalade Bread and Butter Pudding and Blueberry and Marmalade Tea Cakes are more delicious because of the addition of Ruby Sunrise Marmalade.

I’m a huge fan of marmalade, and I’m always willing to try different citrus fruits in search of something a little different. I have to admit though, that my traditional marmalade using seville oranges, is not as good as some of my other marmalades and jams. Seville orange marmalade is clearly a work in progress..

Ruby Sunrise Marmalade is so named because of its rich orange-red hue, a little like a beautiful Sydney sunrise. It’s surprisingly simple – just three different kinds of fruit – blood orange, ruby grapefruit and mandarin. I only make small quantities at a time, so this batch was made with one each of the blood orange and grapefruit and two mandarins.

Great with toast, or adds a touch of tangy citrus to desserts.

Ingredients

1 ruby grapefruit 

1 blood orange 

3 mandarins (thin skinned preferable)

Water to cover fruit

Sugar

Method

Cut the grapefruit in half. Using a vegetable peeler, remove as much of the peel as you can from the fruit minus the pith. Cut the thick pith from the grapefruit  halves and discard. Chop the flesh into segments.
For the blood orange and mandarins, chop the fruit  into segments, peel and pith included. Remove as many pips as you can.

Put all the fruit into a heavy bottomed saucepan.

Cover the fruit generously with water, making sure you have enough in the pan so that the fruit does not boil dry. Bring to the boil and simmer until the fruit is tender. This should take from between 30-45 minutes.

Measure the pulp and the remaining liquid. Return to the pan adding 1.5 cups of sugar for every 1 cup of pulp. Bring to the boil, making sure the sugar is dissolved. Cook until setting point is reached  – 20 to 30 minutes. I use the saucer test* to check for setting point. Leave for 10 minutes before stirring gently. Pour carefully into sterilised jars and leave to cool.

* Testing for setting point
Take the saucepan off the heat and allow the bubbles to subside. Take out a small saucer previously placed in the freezer, and spoon a little liquid onto the saucer, then return to the freezer for 1 minute. Push the marmalade along the plate with your finger. If setting point has been reached then the marmalade surface will wrinkle slightly and the marmalade won’t run back straight away. If it’s not at setting point, return to the heat and boil again for  a few more minutes (maximum 5 minutes) before re-testing. Repeat until setting point is reached.

%d bloggers like this: